Survival of the Fittest in Rio Vista

Posted on 13 February 2010

Through the slant drizzle slowly chiseling
the Humphrey the Whale monument,
we walk the riverbank of the Sacramento,
looking for treasure. We cross the US 12 bridge,
my son fighting his instinct to pee off
the side. He finds a stick to hit the steel girders
and throw into the water. Just after,
a fishing boat full of men dressed in fatigues
passes under, no birds or deer with them.
This is the land of near misses, hunters and
the hunted. Something tells me here
I shouldn’t try to preserve innocence,
shouldn’t try to hold too many overt opinions.

We discover the carcass of a plastic ball,
some snarled monofilament that we joke
could be magic. If it could catch anything
in the world, my son says he wants a crappie.
A crappie. With an o sound I correct,
remembering my Midwestern nice. But Romero
confirms he learned the short a sound too,
like in California. I tell my son he should wish
for a way to get us out of this crappy weather,
as we head for the eighth wonder of the Delta.

At Foster’s Bighorn CafĂ© we sit under the elephant,
the largest stuffed mammal head in the world.
One of its tusks weighs more than I did in
high school. The old African has hung there
since long before that. He has been there
more than fifty years with his friends:
timber wolf, hippo, rhino, giraffe, cougar,
grizzly, salmon, platypus, hyena and
the jackalope. It’s nice to see they have
a sense of humor about it, so I joke there are
more heads in the kitchen–some of
the short order cooks who didn’t measure up.

It’s the opposite of a zoo, a whole season of episodes
for some kind of taxidermy channel. It’s the ultimate
dream for a blogger cataloging skulls stuffed with
nothingness. Clearly, the sense here is life and death
are the only major entertainments available.

We gnaw our fish and beef, use a straw to blow
root beer bubbles. All our troubles are whistling
down the Sacramento. We commit to being
the kind of animals whose brains raft along
in our heads, looking for the treasure of
some diversion. We find it here in one of the bar’s
patrons who’s narrating his near misses,
then wishes for how he’d like to go,
motoring out beyond the Golden Gate in a boat
full of Kessler’s. When he’s drunk all of it,
he’ll shoot a hole in the bottom and become
one more member of God’s studio audience
who can clap and comment and laugh at
the parts where it all gets so delightfully absurd.

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